At Tuesday's April 9th Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board voted unanimously to adopt an urgency interim ordinance that established a temporary moratorium on the cultivation of industrial hemp for any purpose, including for commercial purposes or by "Established Agricultural Research Institutions." The Nevada County Community Development Agency and County Counsel recommended the ordinance due to many unknown conditions that exist at the state level, including a lack of regulations that address all aspects of the cultivation of industrial hemp .
Industrial hemp is defined as "a crop that is limited to types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. having no more than three-tenths of 1 percent (.3%) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not; the seeds of the plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin produced therefrom." This definition means that Cannabis and Industrial Hemp are nearly indistinguishable in the field – without laboratory testing for THC content, the two plants cannot be distinguished.
Cannabis and hemp present the same local challenges and could potentially require similar governance by the County even though they are regulated very differently by the state and federal government. With hemp, water usage and other environmental impacts may be similar to cannabis. Zoning and a fee structure for enforcement and services will have to be studied, and, if feasible, enacted.
Allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp, particularly prior to the adoption of reasonable regulations, may result in violations of the County's current and future regulations, interference with the County's ability to effectively regulate land use, and may be harmful to the welfare of the County and its residents, create a public nuisance, and threaten existing agricultural and other land uses and nearby property owners.
The California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is expected to approve a registration process for Industrial Hemp this month, which will include a requirement for the applicant to register with the local County Agricultural Commissioner, submit a $900 registration fee to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and provide additional information such as a legal description of site, G.P.S. coordinates, and whether the strain and species is certified as a hemp derivative.
The Community Development Agency recommended a temporary moratorium on this process until acreage and zoning restrictions for cannabis cultivation are agreed upon. An industrial hemp ordinance might then be developed, however, compatibility issues between industrial hemp and cannabis may need to be addressed.
The ordinance was adopted pursuant to Gov. Code 65858(b), which requires the item to return to the Board for further consideration within 45 days. The ordinance took effect immediately for an initial period of 45 days – at the end of the 45 days the Board may extend the interim ordinance for a total period not to exceed 2 years.